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3 Major Secrets to Living to 100, According to Experts

These well-kept secrets have been scientifically proven to promote an especially long lifespan.
FACT CHECKED BY Faye Brennan

There's no greater benefit of a healthy lifestyle than improved longevity and a longer lifespan. Sure, big biceps and a flat stomach are all well and good, but a long and satisfying life is truly the best reward. We all want to spend time with our grandkids and great-grandkids, and it's no secret that clean eating and regular exercise are integral to maintaining strong health well into your 80s, 90s, and beyond.

Besides proper nutrition and exercise, though, what else can one do to promote a longer lifespan? If you've been on the hunt for your own personal fountain of youth, chances are, you've heard it all. From any number of dubious supplements to endless books and strategies, there's no shortage of supposed shortcuts to a longer life out there.

Related: 3 Major Secrets to Living to 99, According to Betty White

The scientific truth about human longevity, however, is that modern science still has a long way to go before we truly understand all the factors at play. For instance, research published very recently in the scientific journal Molecular Biology and Evolution reports the discovery of 2,000 (!) new genes dating back millions of years that appear to be linked to human longevity. So, the mystery of human lifespan is a complex puzzle, and we're not even sure we've gathered all the jigsaw pieces just yet.

Still, there's no shortage of relevant research on longevity and how to potentially extend your lifespan—and some it is pretty strange. One study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology reports viagra can lengthen longevity for men recovering from a heart attack. Meanwhile, another set of research concluded that the risk of dying drops by 5% for each additional $50,000 earned during middle age!

Those approaches aren't exactly universal, but luckily, there are a few more well-kept secrets that have been scientifically proven to promote an especially long lifespan. Keep reading to learn about 3 major secrets for living to 100!

Stay social

Two older friends are riding in a golf cart.

There's nothing wrong with the occasional weekend spent catching up on "me time," but there's a boatload of scientific evidence that tells us to get out there around other people. Why? It will help you live longer. Consider this study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology. Researchers state maintaining a healthy social network can help individuals live up to 50% longer. Another study published in Psychosomatic Medicine reports that maintaining just four or more good friends may reduce the risk of early death by up to 200%.

More specifically, one report released in Aging Clinical and Experimental Research examined a group of nearly 300 centenarians (people over the age of 100) living in New Zealand. Researchers concluded that maintaining an active social life and avoiding cigarettes were the two recurring lifestyle choices reported by participants. "Electing not to smoke and committing to maintain social networking will be the best investment one can make towards successful aging," associate professor & study co-author Yoram Barak from the University of Otago comments.

Don't make the mistake of assuming that this means you have to keep partying all night long well into old age. Staying social doesn't have to mean cocktails and clubs. Yet another research project published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that volunteering and helping others is also a great way to live longer. Study authors report older adults who volunteer for about two hours per week are significantly less likely to pass away.

"Humans are social creatures by nature. Perhaps this is why our minds and bodies are rewarded when we give to others," explains lead author Dr. Eric Kim, of the Chan School of Public Health at Harvard University. "Our results show that volunteerism among older adults doesn't just strengthen communities, but enriches our own lives by strengthening our bonds to others, helping us feel a sense of purpose and well-being, and protecting us from feelings of loneliness, depression, and hopelessness. Regular altruistic activity reduces our risk of death even though our study didn't show any direct impact on a wide array of chronic conditions."

Related: Queen Elizabeth's Surprising Secrets to Living to 95

Move to a walkable neighborhood

older couple walking outdoors
Shutterstock / Monkey Business Images

Location, location, location! One especially noteworthy piece of research published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health reports choosing the right neighborhood can go a long way toward living to 100.

The research team analyzed an extensive dataset of 145,000 recently deceased older adults who had lived in Washington state and passed away between 2011-2015 at age 75 or older. They looked specifically for any similarities among individuals who lived to 100 or older. Sure enough, they observed that Washingtonians who had lived in highly walkable, mixed-age communities were much more likely to see their 100th birthday.

While each person's lifespan is heavily influenced by their genes, study authors say their work indicates that living in a community that promotes healthy aging can make it much easier to overcome those "genetic odds".

In all, three neighborhood factors were named as promoting a longer lifespan: High walkability, a diverse range of ages among locals, and high socioeconomic status.

"These findings indicate that mixed-age communities are very beneficial for everyone involved," says study author Rajan Bhardwaj. "They also support the big push in growing urban centers toward making streets more walkable, which makes exercise more accessible to older adults and makes it easier for them to access medical care and grocery stores."

Related: This Workout Is Three Times Better for You Than Walking, New Study Says

Stay happy

Photo portrait of happy senior lady wearing sunglass red hat smiling in blazer isolated on bright yellow color background

No one is saying it's easy, but maintaining a positive attitude has been shown to work wonders for overall health and longevity. One study published in Age and Aging analyzed over 4,000 adults over the age of 60 before concluding the happier an older individual is, the more likely they are to live longer. "The findings indicate that even small increments in happiness may be beneficial to older people's longevity," explains senior study author Rahul Malhotra, an assistant professor and Head of Research at Duke-NUS' Centre for Ageing Research and Education.

A different project examined 70,000 women over the course of eight years. Sure enough, those who were more optimistic were much less likely to pass away from causes including heart attack, stroke, and cancer. More specifically, the most positive females were 38% less likely to die from heart disease and 52% less likely to die from infection in comparison to the most pessimistic women.

"Previous studies have shown that optimism can be altered with relatively uncomplicated and low-cost interventions — even something as simple as having people write down and think about the best possible outcomes for various areas of their lives, such as careers or friendships," says study co-leader and postdoctoral research fellow Kaitlin Hagan. "Encouraging use of these interventions could be an innovative way to enhance health in the future."

An additional review of 35 prior studies published in Psychosomatic Medicine also reports that happy individuals are known to live 18% longer on average than their more depressed peers.

For more, check out This 15-Minute Workout Can Add Years to Your Life.

John Anderer
John Anderer is a writer who specializes in science, health, and lifestyle topics. Read more
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